In today’s world, promoting diversity is an important part of running a responsible and respected practice. Aside from being part of your medical code of ethics, it’s worth the effort: A 2019 analysis from McKinsey found that businesses that excel in diversity have better outcomes than those that don’t. Adopting an inclusive approach, which creates a welcoming environment for everyone, can help you reach new audiences and expand your practice.

Promoting diversity becomes even more vital in businesses serving patients — such as vision, dental, and veterinary practices — because it can also result in better health outcomes. Patients and clients who feel understood by you are more likely to follow your advice.

Here are four key elements that every practice should consider.

1. Research your community

Even if you’ve been in a community for a long time, it’s good to keep in mind that populations are always evolving. Make an effort to stay up to date on the changes. Two ways to begin:

  • Look for opportunities. Which populations do you serve and which would you like to serve? Is there an underserved group or two that could benefit from your services? How can you encourage them to pay you a visit?
  • Check the data. The Census Bureau provides customized reports that can help you understand who lives in your area. This can help you ensure that your practice speaks to all parts of the community, not just the parts you’re personally most familiar with.

  Tip  

If you’d like to serve a specific population in your area, consider hiring a market-research firm to conduct a survey to see what their specific needs, obstacles, and wishes are, as they relate to your area of expertise.

2. Hire a diverse team

It helps to have a diverse staff that understands the experiences and perspectives of traditionally underrepresented groups. Research shows that the mere presence of diversity in the workplace — represented within the staff — produces better outcomes for businesses of all kinds. A few things to consider when hiring:

  • Consider language abilities. If you’re looking to serve non-English-speaking patients, employ staff who can communicate easily in that community’s language.
  • Think beyond gender and race. A truly diverse staff may include seniors, people with disabilities, people who don’t identify as cisgender, and those from a nondominant religion. Watch 4 Ways to Build and Retain a Diverse Team to learn more.

By using a patient portal, you may improve cash flow, too. Many programs allow patients to make payments and can provide billing reminders.

  Tip  

Make sure your marketing messages showcase a diverse group of people. An easy way to do that? Use your diverse team when shooting photos and videos!

3. Design an inclusive office

Take a look at your entire practice with an eye toward making it more welcoming and accessible to all the people you serve. Some ideas here:

  • Do a walk-through. Is there a place in the waiting room where kids might play? Does the art on the wall represent diverse cultures? Is signage in multiple languages? Do the products you sell appeal to different interests? Is everything as accessible as it could be for people with disabilities? Make notes as you go and create a plan for improvements.
  • Change the channel. Many waiting-room TVs are tuned to home-improvement shows, whose big budgets and bigger estates can be off-putting. Instead, carefully choose channels that will be most relevant to your patients and clients, or look into companies that provide practice-specific content, such as VueCare for optometrists, ADA TV for dentists, and PetCareTV for veterinarians.

  Tip  

Invite staff members to make recommendations on how you might make your facilities more welcoming, accessible, or helpful. Also invite others with a wide array of perspectives, such as a friend who uses a wheelchair, to take a tour and share their honest feedback.

4. Be a lifelong learner

Recently, many of us have wondered whether we’re doing the right things in terms of diversity and inclusion. It’s important to remember that becoming more culturally competent is a lifelong journey. A few ways to keep growing:

  • Leave your comfort zone. Attend culturally diverse community events, whether it’s a Pride march or Juneteenth celebration. Learn another language. Attend a diversity-focused conference, training, or webinar. When possible, travel to areas with a culture different from your own. It all adds to your understanding of others.
  • Practice cultural humility. The goal is not perfection, but to go forward with goodwill and accept criticism if it comes. When you know better, you’ll do better.

  Tip  

A good way to stay on track: Focus on the three tenets of equitable care, as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health: Make sure the care you provide is effective for all, understandable for all, and respectful of all.

Whether you realize it or not, your practice is continually sending messages to traditionally underrepresented groups. By making it a point to get to know and serve your community better, you can send a welcoming message to all — and extend the reach of your care. 

Source: McKinsey, Tulane School of Public Health, CIO, AAFP, PBHS, Office of Minority Health

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